Is Full Disclosure Best?

I was recently interviewed by a student who is taking a class in ethical practices in couple therapy. I was asked whether I require full disclose from each partner to each other in couple sessions, especially when I have met with each partner separately. This, naturally, becomes a critical question, especially in the case of infidelity and betrayals and duplicities of various other sorts. My partial reply follows:

I honestly feel the work is larger than that. I do often hold secrets. Requiring disclosure to their partner just insures they won’t tell me the truth in the first place. Trust is critical to meaningful, successful therapy. My function is to help them each make the decision to reveal the truth to their partner. It’s only fair. It’s living life on life’s terms. That’s sometimes a slow process of unwinding deep complications of their internal life, as well as the many levels of their relational agreements, conscious and unconscious. Honestly, in my heart, I truly believe it is “unethical” and destructive to require disclosure, unless it’s what the couple truly wants. I explain my approach from the start and they agree to it. People are delightfully complex; relationships are amazingly so. Therapy must be, too.

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